Written by James Burley
Writing BEST reports seems to have become the thing to do, so grab a glass of wine (or if your name's Nicky then grab a bottle to be on the safe side!) and have a gander at this. I don't often write these so apologise for the imminent waffle...
After drawing for start, I began game one. Two early blanks allowed me to have two bonuses in the first 4 moves, making it 194-98 at that stage in the game. Getting some decent scores for Q,X and J helped me on the way to winning the first game.
JB 440 SwELLED, (C)OURIeRS
BT 338 - none
James 1-0 Ben
Ben starts this time with ROQUE for 30. From a rack of GIORTVY I play TYG and make ROQUET for 26. A bit of board opening on both sides leads to me playing SNAKIER for 99, Ben responding with PER(V)IATE for 76, which I follow up straight away with BHAJI for 63. The set of four consecutive high scores is complete when Ben plays INDARTs for 91. I manage a bonus towards the end to take the win, for which the spread is increased as a result of a time penalty of 30 points incurred by Ben.
BT 344 PER(V)IATE, INDARTs
JB 410 SNAKIER, AdDICTS, BHAJI (63)
James 2-0 Ben
I start with MOUND for 22 which Ben follows with UPL(O)ADER* which I convince myself is a word and so it goes unchallenged, as does the S I then put on it. Two bonuses each but I was playing catch up from the beginning in this game. In the end the deficit which, it turns out, I could have eradicated by challenging, is too much to make up, especially when the bonus I play with three in the bag leaves me with an unplayable Q.
JB 393 AUgITES, EDITORs, BOXEN (42)
BT 462 UPL(O)ADER*, UNCRATE(D)
James 2-1 Ben
Ben starts with GRAPH and decides to play it so it ends three away from the TWS. He later plays ENE on to the end of it for 44+5. Lots of 30 and 40 point moves from Ben along with a couple of bonuses means that he takes the win and levels the tie. I was pleased with my bonus spot from AAENOS? but otherwise this was Ben's game.
BT 440 GOORIES, TAILInG, (GRAPH)ENE 49
JB 371 OzAENAS, MIZ (51)
James 2-2 Ben
This was a slow starting game which turned out to be a hard fought win for me. Just the one bonus compared to the two from Ben but a couple of high scoring moves with power tiles and gained 5 points a piece from challenges for (ROgERING)S and DWAM. I gave away five for challenging CANDIDS.
JB 443 ROg(E)RING, EM(O)JI (66), E(X)PAT (42)
BT 414 TERRIEs, CANDIDS (+5), XYST (53)
James 3-2 Ben
Pizza lunch (thanks Ben) and then off we go again...
Ben had control of this game in the early stages before I managed to take the lead with a bonus midway through. Ben bonused later to take the lead again, before he beat me to the last bonus spot, meaning that my last rack of DEINRTU had five bonuses, none of which were playable.
BT 451, SEaLING, OUREBIS, Z(I)MBS (76)
JB 394 dOGEATE
Ben 3-3 James
Least said soonest mended about this one as far as I am concerned! Ben gets decent scores for X, then Z, then J in his first three moves. In my 3rd move I put a bonus down but it turns out to be a mere drop in the ocean, which means Ben takes the lead in the tie for the first time.
JB 364 SOUTANE, DELATES
BT 500 RAMILIE, UNdERWI(T) (+5), JARK (52), DOW (45)
Ben 4-3 James
I pop out for a ciggie and give myself a good talking to, and I hold my nerve to win a close game having started with a bonus following Ben's initial change, gaining an unexpected 5 points for a challenge of CoD(S) at the end.
BT 424 (R)IANCIES, FLOORED (91), EWERS (46)
JB 447 RERAILS, OrGIAST, AWOKE (45)
Ben 4-4 James
This time the tile bag turned into the gift that kept on giving! Yesterday I learned COHEIRS from Barry Grossman and managed to play it in this game for a healthy 95. before going from 271 to 495 in four moves to notch up a nice win and put me potentially a game away from reaching round two of BEST for the first time in 3 attempts...
JB 499 COHEiRS, eN(A)RGITE, WRAPPE(R) (51), TOUK (57), ZI(T)E, (46)
BT: 296 none
Ben 4-5 James
Could this be the decider? Sadly not. This was Ben's game from the start and he exacted sweet revenge by confining me below 300 for the third time in a rated game this year. In the end, I sat and spectated. Had he given me a floating E for my opening rack of AABIOTU then it may have been a different story...
BT 408: U(N)RIVETs, JO(T)A (57)
JB 294 none
Ben 5-5 James
And so to the decider... after ten games it came down to this one...
After 10 games, Ben had a spread of +22 to my -22, so he started the final game. This started off as a very canny affair. On his third move though, Ben edged ahead with CaJOLED for 77. This time it was my turn for playing X, followed by Q and then Z in three consecutive moves, but Ben remained ahead. He held the lead despite us both trying to deal with rack balance. I get close to the bonus on a tight board and suddenly Ben plays OVERGAi(N)* and this time I do manage to challenge the phoney from the board, play off two of my three Es, to leave me with AEINS, and pick up DD and manage to hook onto the top of CUP. A couple of score-y consonants turn up on the next rack and I am able to pull away, meaning I hold the lead as Ben bonuses out.
BT: 356 CaJOLED, OUTE(A)RNs
JB 385 DANDIES, FOXIE (41)
And breathe! I dug my heals in and reached round two of BEST for the first time. Thank you so much to Ben for his wonderful hosting. This was the first time he and I had met, let alone played. All I knew about him was what people told me, "nice bloke" and "very good player." He is certainly both of these and I look forward to playing him again sometime. For now, I await either Sanmi Odelana or Rachelle Whiteoak in round 2.